By Kelsei Scott
Jackson Advocate Student Intern
The CROWN Act, an acronym for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, is the resolution that students and employees can express themselves freely through their hair without racial discrimination, loss of access to school, and inclusion in workplace endeavors. The California state senate was the first to pass legislation, and thus far, 20 states have followed suit.
With a Black population of 38%, Mississippi is hoping to be next. Legislation was introduced last year and is being debated this session.
A further push for the CROWN Act in the Magnolia State is the upcoming CROWN and Glory panel discussion and fashion show set for Friday, Feb. 17 at Jackson’s historic Alamo Theater starting at 6:30 pm. The event will showcase braids, locs, twists, cornrows, bantu knots, afros, and other natural hairstyles and textures that are all protected under the act.
Generation Z, those born 1997 – 2012, is one of the most impacted groups of people affected by whether Mississippi enacts the CROWN Act. The bulk of this generation is in favor of the legislation.
Ayliahna Wilson, a 21-year-old senior journalism and media studies major at Jackson State University, says, “This is something that is honestly long overdue. I am glad that this act is being implemented in the South due to many people still experiencing discrimination here based on their appearance, sound, and background.”
Many schools have banned natural hairstyles, such as afros, which forces African Americans with diverse hairdos to straighten their hair or make accommodations to their hair that they are not necessarily comfortable with. Hair has always been an expressive outlet for all cultures. Generation Z is a strikingly passionate group and are bound to use their hair as a form of self-expression.
“I express myself through my hair by letting it do what it wants. I do not spend an excessive amount of time trying to slick it down with various products or putting excessive heat on it to achieve certain looks. My edges do not have to be done. I let my hair do what it is supposed to do: kink and curl,” says Arria Chinn, a 20-year-old junior elementary education major.
Jamee McAdoo, a 21-year-old journalism and media studies major, says, “My hair, like my skin and clothing, is a part of who I am. I feel a sense of pride rocking my locs and I always felt pride with my natural curls, too, every time I stepped in a room. However, I do know certain employers in the workforce could prejudge me based off my hair alone, but it never stops me from pursuing my goals and being my authentic self.”
Research has found that a little over eighty percent of women feel as if they must change their hair to conform to their workplace. However, members of Generation Z continue to challenge researchers and the opinions of others.
Khaliya Ervin, a 25-year-old Park Forest, Ill. native, says, “It will affect my future and those around me because we will not have to cut our hair to be hired or alter our natural state to be hired. We would be looked at for our résumé and not for what is worn on top of our heads.”
As we wait for the act to pass in Miss., employers, K-12 schools, and universities should review their policies and consider the purpose of the CROWN Act and the individuality of their students and employees.